There are no seniors on Christ Presbyterian Academy’s boys roster.
That doesn’t bode well for most basketball teams, but it hasn’t hurt CPA.
The top-ranked Lions (34-2) have won 60 straight games against in-state opponents, and they are three wins away from repeating as Class AA champions.
CPA on Thursday faces No. 9 Mitchell (23-7) in a quarterfinal rematch of last year’s championship at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center.
“Nothing really amazes me with that group of young men,” Lions coach Drew Maddux said. “They’re just incredibly gifted, they’re unselfish, they love each other, they serve each other well. … Excellence just kind of flows from that group.”
The starting five features four juniors and one freshman. Juniors Jalen Lindsey, Jake Allsmiller and Braxton Bonds are college prospects. So is freshman Braxton Blackwell, and junior Thomas Richard is a football prospect at wide receiver.
Brentwood coach Dennis King, whose team lost to CPA 71-66 on Nov. 17, calls the Lions a heavy favorite to win the state tournament.
“They have weapons at every spot,” said King, whose team will make its first state tournament appearance today in Class AAA. “They’ve got Allsmiller that can shoot 3s. They’ve got two very talented (6-7) guys that don’t have any flaws in their game in Lindsey and Blackwell. And then they’ve got Braxton Bonds that just gets to the hole and sets those guys up. I can’t imagine a AA team beating them.”
Lindsey’s 18 offers include Ohio State, Louisville, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
“Coach expects me to be a leader on the team since we have no seniors this year,” Lindsey said. “So definitely I think my biggest role is to be a leader on this team, and help lead this young team.”
Lindsey, who averages 19.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, has helped the Lions go 123-20 during four seasons as a starter.
He gets a lot of help inside from Blackwell, who averages 13.1 points and eight rebounds. Blackwell already has eight offers, including four Southeastern Conference schools.
Blackwell said CPA’s success has made it a target for every opponent.
“It’s tough because you know every time you step on the court you better bring your ‘A’ game because the other teams are,” Blackwell said. “It just brings out the best competition night in, night out. It’s pretty fun, actually.”
Blackwell’s uncle, Ralph Sampson, was the No. 1 pick in the 1983 NBA draft from Virginia before playing professionally from 1983-92.
Blackwell and Lindsey can take it to the hoop, or the Lions can kick it out to Allsmiller, a 6-5 guard who has 318 career 3-pointers. He tries to take 500 to 1,000 3-pointers daily.
His father, Brian, was a 6-8 center who scored most of his points in the paint at Vanderbilt from 1978-81. Jake and his dad often joke about their opposite playing styles.
“He was a banger, and I don’t really like going inside the arc too much,” said Jake Allsmiller, who has offers from Vanderbilt and Miami of Ohio. “I’ll just joke around and say I’m a better shooter, and he’ll just be like, ‘Well, if you came into the paint then I would send your stuff to the fifth row.’ And I’ll start laughing.”
Bonds, a 6-1 point guard, has plenty of options when it’s time to distribute the ball.
“It makes my job easy because all I’ve got to do is get them the ball, get them in position to score and let them do the rest, and it’s been successful so far,” said Bonds, who has offers from Miami of Ohio, MTSU and Radford.
He’s averaging 12.1 points and 5.1 assists. Bonds’ uncle, Barry Bonds, is major league baseball’s all-time home run king with 762.
Richard, a 6-1 swingman who averages six points and 4.2 rebounds, is savoring every moment after missing last season with a broken right foot.
“It makes you know not to take things for granted because I didn’t ever think I’d have to sit out a whole season,” Richard said. “You just play every game like it’s your last.”
CPA also has good size coming off the bench in 6-5 Parker Howell and 6-6 Paul Adams.
The Lions won their first 12 games, including their second straight King of the Bluegrass tournament title in Fairdale, Ky. Then CPA lost two straight to Chicago St. Rita and Orem, Utah, at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The Lions rebounded by winning their last 22. Now CPA is trying to become the first school in state history to win two straight boys and girls titles.
CPA’s girls repeated in AA on Saturday, but Maddux doesn’t want his team to overlook Mitchell.
“I have a great deal of respect for Memphis Mitchell and what (coach) Faragi Phillips has done there with that program for the last two years,” Maddux said. “They had great tradition under Coach (Jerry) Johnson, who coached Thaddeus Young and other great players at Mitchell. For Faragi to return that program to prominence and get them back to Murfreesboro speaks volumes about him.”